Every presidential election year, an organization called the National Intelligence Council publishes a report called “Global Trends” which outlines what the world may look like in the next 20 years. They consult intelligence analysts, political, economic, and military experts; gather information from governments and non-governmental organizations, and put forth what they believe are the most likely scenarios to emerge over the course of the next two decades.
The report does not necessarily suggest what the US should do or how it should respond to the various scenarios they posit; but of course, the intention of the report is to inform policymakers about existing trends, their likely trajectories, and to help them plan the future of American policy.
It is noteworthy that the ‘Global Trends” report is free, can be downloaded on the internet, and is the National Intelligence Council’s most important “unclassified” publication. We can assume from this that there is very likely a “classified” version which is not available for public consumption. The classified version is more or less written in the unclassified version, albeit, between the lines.
The most recent report, from 2012, and forecasting until 2030, outlines four “mega-trends” that will profoundly impact the near future.
- Individual empowerment
- Diffusion of power
- Demographic patterns
- Food, water, and energy nexus
To summarize their conclusions regarding these trends, they predict that there will be a reduction in overall poverty, greater access to education and technology, which will lead to individual empowerment; they believe that there will no longer be a single hegemonic power in the world, but rather coalitions and networks of control; they see economic growth decreasing in “aging” countries, and immigration rising; and they envision an intensified struggle for natural resources.
In my opinion, the most important of the mega-trends they deal with are the “Diffusion of power” and “Demographic patterns”. Regarding “Individual empowerment” because of a reduction in poverty, well, there is no reason to believe that poverty will be reduced, at least not without being simultaneously accompanied by a continuing rise in relative inequality. The income gap shows no signs of decreasing. What they actually mean by this mega-trend, is that, in connection with the other trends, economic growth and political power will shift from its historical centers in Western Europe to Asia, and the extreme poverty in this region will be slightly lessened; though, again, this will be relative as it coincides with the rise of extreme wealth in fewer hands.
When they say that there will no longer be a hegemonic power in the world, that is misleading. You may understand from this that the US will no longer be the dominant world power; but that is not exactly what they are saying. They predict “coalitions and networks” of power that will work in concert to control the global order, rather than any single nation exerting total authority. This, it should be obvious, refers to business; multinational corporations and financial institutions; which are creating, and will create, collaborative relationships with subordinate partners around the world to manage the affairs of each region.
The “aging” countries refers to Europe, where the median age is 42 or 43 years old. Their work force is nearing retirement, and it is not being naturally replenished. Europe will depend on immigration to sustain any degree of economic growth. This immigration will tend to be from Muslim countries, and the Muslim population will likely be almost a quarter of the total population of Europe by 2030. This will permanently alter the cultural and political character of the continent, and requires two responses; One, the limiting of democracy in Europe, and Two, Europe’s marginalization as a global center of power and influence.
With regard to the struggle for resources, it should be clarified that they are not talking about the struggle to identify and consume resources; they are talking about the struggle to control access to resources. And this, again, is connected to the “Diffusion of power”. As China, and probably India, grow as political and economic powers, it will be vital to the US to keep that power in check through the ability to supply or deny those countries access to natural resources.
If we had access to the classified version of the “Global Trends” report, we would likely read an analysis such as I have written above. In summary; Europe is in decline, Asia is emerging, and it is crucial to accelerate the ascendancy of corporate power, restrict democratic mechanisms, and secure the control of natural resources by private monopolies.